College students interesting in a teaching career typically hold an undergraduate degree and an additional year of study in instructional methods, childhood development and learning principles. Education departments interpret state licensing standards and create lists of required and recommended courses for the teaching credential. Most departments divide study into teaching levels, including early childhood, elementary, middle and high school. Despite the differences in state licensing requirements, study for future teachers includes a core of classes.

Core Content

State teacher licensing requires candidates for credentials to demonstrate competency in reading and writing and also to show mastery of basic math skills. College and university education programs ask future teachers to select a regular major, and programs accept most majors for admission to teaching programs. Elementary instructors teach a variety of subjects, including math, science, language arts, art, history and music. Classes in all of these areas prepare instructors for a license to teach in preschool through fifth-grade classes.

Middle school and high school teachers generally have teaching assignments for one or two subjects during the school year. The limited focus requires more in-depth knowledge in one area such as math or science. Teachers at the middle and high school levels need both survey classes and upper-division courses in the subject the college student plans to teach. Many colleges also require education students to complete at least one course in diversity appreciation.

Learning Theory

Instructors must have the knowledge of learning theory to teach, including general psychology or classes emphasizing childhood psychology. Future teachers also must pass a specialized class surveying the variety of education theories. This course examines the cognitive, constructivism and behavioral learning theories and also reviews theories of motivating students. Theory classes typically ask college students to observe in preschool through secondary classes and make notes about the practical application of learning theories.

Communication and Technology

Teaching involves using effective communication skills, and many teaching programs require education students to take a course in basic or interpersonal communication theory or public speaking. Future teachers also must complete at least one basic course in technology and several specialized tech courses focused on the use of hardware and software in classroom instruction. Many colleges also require education students to take a course introducing computerized assessment programs. Education programs, including the University of Montana and the University of California, also demand students master a foreign language or take classes to earn a certification to teach non-native English-speaking students.

Teaching Methods

Methodology classes train education students in classroom instruction techniques. These required courses focus on teaching the core subjects, such as math, science, reading and social sciences, and provide teaching methods in specialized subjects, including technology. Methods courses also usually include a practicum called student teaching that asks the education student to assist a senior teacher or serve as the main classroom teacher. Student-teaching programs require a minimum of several weeks to a maximum assignment to serve as a classroom teacher for the entire semester. Students seeking state certification in more than one subject area sometimes enroll in two separate student-teaching courses.